M.T.V. = A.D.D.
“Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.” (32:25)
We live in an era of distraction. Television advertising and music video driven by big BPM (bucks-per-minute) have accelerated the cutting rates of film and video to the microsecond.
The ubiquitous cell phone interrupts us our thoughts, our conversations, our lives. We don’t think anymore; we just surf through our thoughts.
Now this. Now this. Now this.
How long can you hold an idea in your head? Try it. Whoops! Try again! How long you can concentrate on an idea without any other thought intruding? Ten seconds? Twenty?
Two minutes of uninterrupted focus on one thought is pretty Olympic in my experience.
In this week’s Torah portion, an incorporeal spiritual force (transl. ‘angel’) attacks Yaakov and wrestles with him until the dawn. This ‘angel’ was the protecting force of the nation of Esav. Why didn’t the angel of Esav attack Avraham or Yitzchak? Why did he wait for Yaakov?
This world stands on three pillars: kindness, prayer and Torah. The three Patriarchs represent these three pillars. Avraham is the pillar of kindness, Yitzchak is the pillar of prayer and Yaakov is the pillar of Torah. The Torah is the unique possession of the Jewish people. No other nation in the world has the Torah. Thus the attack on Torah is the one that hits at the heart of Judaism.
The angel of Esav attacked Yaakov because he knew that the most effective way to destroy the Jewish People is to deter them from learning Torah.
Even though the angel of Esav was unsuccessful in his fight with Yaakov, he managed to damage him in the thigh. The thigh is place in the body that represents progeny and the continuation of the generations – Jewish continuity.
In the era before the coming of Mashiach, Esav will try to make it very difficult to educate our children with Torah. Torah demands commitment, application and concentration. The essence of Talmudic thought is to be able to contain several ideas in one’s head and to synthesize and counterpoint these ideas. You can’t learn Torah if you are distracted. We live in an era where distraction has become an industry.
In the generation before the Mashiach in which we find ourselves, maintaining a minimal attention span will be a gigantic battle in itself.